Former Navy officer, LP stalwart to head DOTC

The Department of Transportation and Communications, to which the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority are attached, will soon be led by a former Navy officer and a trusted administration ally.

Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya, whose appointment as DOTC secretary was announced Friday afternoon, said heading the department would not be his first time to serve President Benigno Aquino III.

"Actually, I’ve worked with the President some two decades ago, though, in a different capacity. I used to open doors and pull chairs for him when I was then a young lieutenant in the Navy and as a former aide-de-camp of then President Cory (Corazon Aquino)," he said in his speech accepting the appointment.

Abaya was sent to the U.S. Naval Academy after obtaining top marks at the Philippine Military Academy. He also has a master's degree in engineering from Cornell University and a law degree from Ateneo Law School.

Abaya also served under Aquino when both were members of the House of Representatives. "He was our fearless leader during my first term in Congress, especially during the days of our impeachment complaint against the former President (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo)," he said.

The President referred to those times, when he announced Abaya's appointment. He said Abaya could have sided with Arroyo back then since their impeachment bid had a slim chance of success.

"Pero pinili niyang itaya ang kanyang kinabukasan sa pulitika para panindigan ang tama. Walang pag-aalinlangan niyang sinabing: tataya ako dito. Ang ganitong katangian ang kinakailangan natin sa DOTC," he said.

The President said he chose Abaya, currently secretary-general of the Liberal Party, because the DOTC's big-ticket projects would be open to abuse if put in the wrong hands. He said the projects at the DOTC, which include the construction and upgrading of airports and seaports, would be so big and technical that it would be easy to hide corruption. He said, however, that this will not happen with Abaya at the helm of the department.

"I look forward to working with the current DOTC teams that have undertaken the planning, bidding, and implementation of projects that will revitalize our airport, ports, and other infrastructure: the roads and systems that are the strategic underpinning of our economic progress and expansion," Abaya said, promising to continue reforms that his predecessor, newly-appointed Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II started.

"We have this rare chance to see things through and with God’s help and our people’s, we will do our part," he said.

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